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Capitol Correspondence - 10.22.18

Senate GOP Leader McConnell Eyes Safety Net Cuts, ACA Repeal

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Looking ahead to the Senate’s post-election agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed support for a new attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) if the GOP retains enough seats. Senator McConnell stated: “If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks … We’re not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working.”

 

These comments came in a week of news affecting the healthcare system and safety net overall, as a few days prior to discussing  ACA repeal Senator McConnell also called for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to reduce the federal deficit. As explained in the article:

 

“New Treasury Department analysis on Monday revealed that corporate tax cuts had a significant impact on the deficit this year. Federal revenue rose by 0.04 percent in 2018, a nearly 100 percent decrease last year’s 1.5 percent. In fiscal year 2018, tax receipts on corporate income fell to $205 billion from $297 billion in 2017.

 

Still, McConnell insisted that the change had nothing to do with a lack of revenue or increased spending and instead was due to entitlement and welfare programs. The debt, he said, was very ‘disturbing’ and driven by ‘the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid…There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully, at some point here, we’ll get serious about this.’”

 

It is likely that proposals to cut funding would receive support from the Administration, with the President asking his Cabinet secretaries last Wednesday to cut spending by 5 percent across the board in each of their departments. Regarding this specific 5 percent department cut proposal, it is important to remember that the White House budget is a proposal, as Congress has the ultimate deciding power on the shape and direction of the federal budget.

 

This separation of powers means that while 5 percent cuts proposal could be reflected in the budget the President submits to Congress next year, it is unclear whether Congress would follow this approach or issue different proposals. We see from Senator McConnell’s announcements that there is a shared concern in the current Senate and the Administration on the deficit, but at this point the McConnell comments and Presidential comments do not necessarily point to a coordinated approach.

 

ANCOR will keep members informed of how these discussions evolve as elected officials respond to the results of the November 6 election.